Radical forgiveness

I get this religious attraction; I would just rather make peace with those I’ve hurt—and myself.

When humans first invented religion—yes, we invented it; hard to remember, I’m sure—it was mainly to explain the unexplainable. We didn’t have microscopes or telescopes or any scopes, so we made up gods who were much like we were—jealous and horny and angry, only with much more power—who were in charge of these things. Why did Cousin Leon get smallpox, why did the drought hit, why did the invaders take over the land? Easy—the gods made it all happen.

Since we can explain so much more today than we could back then—not everything, of course, but much more—we seem to have turned to using religion for two main things: political control and radical forgiveness.

Most of us know how religion is used as a form of political control—from the Crusades to today’s battles over abortion, gay marriage, and putting the Ten Commandments on every cereal box, it’s a complete joke to believe that there’s any separation of church and state. In fact, thousands of evangelical voters will not only claim they are one—many will also claim that our founding fathers themselves were devout Christians.

The radical forgiveness, however, is something that I’ve only recently become aware of.  A friend of mine told me about how a horrible relative of his suddenly became a Christian and everything he’d ever done to hurt his family was finally forgiven—not by them or himself, but by God. So since God says it’s okay and all is forgiven, now he can live with himself and believes he never did these horrible things.

I have been witnessing this very process occurring with someone close to me recently, and while I’m happy that the person now has something to live for, I am still deeply hurt by the past ten years of our relationship and would much rather have some kind of closure, some kind of therapy even, to deal with it rather than this sudden religious presence. It’s like the decade just disappeared for this person, wiped perfectly clean, while every pain still remains for the rest of us. I wish I had a magic potion to make me forget all of it myself, but I don’t, so I’m left still trying to figure this crap out.

It’s up to every person to decide whatever they believe in, of course; I just don’t think either of these things are good reasons to do so.

Dating guidelines for Christian women

Christian women dating

As a Christian woman you are like everyone else in regard to your behavior on a first date with a prospective friend or partner. We are all in the process of learning how to treat each other and a first date is only one of the ways we do it. Whether you met the person online at a Christian dating site, at work or simply while sitting in an airport it is essential to begin the relationship in a manner that honors God.

You can do this by simply respecting the person you are dating and following the tenets of the Bible’s teachings. As a woman, you possess charms that God bestowed upon you and it is not necessary to attempt to highlight or show them off. Remember, treat your date with respect because you expect him to treat you the same. Some of the ways you can demonstrate respect starts with how you present yourself:

  1. Groom yourself carefully and completely before the date. Don’t spend money frivolously on expensive hairdos, tanning, pedicures or manicures. As a Christian you are respecting your body at all times as a temple of God. This respect includes maintaining your body in a clean, well-groomed manner.
  2. Apply a minimal amount of make-up and rely on the beauty that dwells within you spiritually as well as your physical appearance. Painting fingernails or toenails is not necessary and casts you in a different light than that you wish to be seen.
  3. Adorn yourself with a minimum of small, tasteful earrings, necklaces, bracelets and other jewelry. The larger, flashier pieces are generally ostentatious and convey an image that does not meet the standards that as a Christian you set for yourself. These pieces are also unnecessary to highlight your appearance.
  4. Choose your clothing carefully. Wear a dress and blouse that fits you well without being tight, binding or transparent. The clothing should cover your body from above your bosom—it’s not necessary to wear clothing that fits up to the neck—to approximately two to four inches below the knee.
  5. Footwear should not include shoes that are designed to be “sexy.” This includes shoes with heels over two inches or that are brightly colored.
  6. Initially, don’t make a point of telling him you are a Christian unless it comes up in conversation. Even then, steer the conversation to topics other than religion so you can gauge his interests, opinions and beliefs. If he is the person with whom you want to continue a relationship your faith will be evident in good time when you ask him to pray with you or attend church together.
  7. If he lights a cigarette or orders a drink without giving you the courtesy of passing it by you, “do you mind if I smoke or would you like a drink?” you will learn the degree of respect he has for you. If he does ask you should then tell him your faith prevents you from these indulgences. At this point, he hopefully will also refrain. The same is true for bad language. Should he use it tell him you would appreciate it if he would not use it around you.
  8. If he chooses a movie or a function that is not compatible with Christian beliefs—such as a movie of sex and violence or a nightclub—simply tell him that as a Christian you’re not comfortable in these environments and ask him to make another choice.
  9. Personal contact during the date should be limited to holding hands.
  10. When saying goodbye on the first date simply shake his hand firmly and warmly and tell him the truth. First, thank him for taking you out, then either tell him you enjoyed the date or you don’t believe you are right for each other.

When going on a first date, follow these security guidelines:

  1. Meet your date at the place he intends to take you. Tell reliable people where you are going and your approximate time of return. Tell them you will call when you arrive home and if you don’t call on time: get help. Listen to the evening news if you don’t believe that it is possible for really bad things to occur if you don’t take precautions
  2. Do not give him your home address or any other personal information. Make certain to continue this policy for several dates until you are comfortable with him as a person.
  3. Don’t go to areas that you believe are not respectable
  4. Don’t agree to a date that takes place late at night or extends beyond midnight.
  5. Always “double date” with your friends on the first and second date. This is to provide protection for you.
  6. Have a fully charged phone in your purse at all times for emergency calls or texts.
  7. Pay a small fee to check him out online for background history. He will almost certainly provide you with his full name and address if you ask a few questions. You also can copy his license plate number for further reference.
  8. Carry pepper spray and don’t hesitate to use it.

Always remember your Christian faith.

Changing the church's contract

The Christian thing to do

I cater from my restaurant. My usual business revolves around church and company functions, family reunions and large barbecue dinners. I recently booked an event for a church that involved upwards of 800 people. I made an initial bid, won the job and got my usual contract signed and sealed. However, a week or so before the event I received a call from the financial manager of the church wanting to meet. This made me somewhat nervous because within 30 days of the event, there was supposed to be a no-changes-rule in effect.

 

As it turned out, I had a good reason to be nervous. The business manager neglected to include in his planning the fact that they would be hosting some high officials of the church. He was pretty upset at himself for forgetting this fact. He went on to explain that he had gotten the contract approved and the money set aside, but there was no money available for upgrading the menu or the tableware.

He wanted me to figure out how to add upgrades to the food, cutlery and tableware while staying within the dollar amount we had previously agreed on.

Obviously, this didn’t set well with me because I was looking at $1,500 in cutlery and tableware alone. Additionally, I would have to employ a minimum of six more staff at $15 per hour to handle the cutlery and crockery, wash and repackage it and then be responsible for breakage.

I wasn’t so worried about the menu changes. I had a lot of options up my sleeve to upgrade the food without it costing me significantly more money.

I pled my case to the financial manager and even pointed out that I had already collected a $2,500 deposit and the language in the contract didn’t really give him any room for changes without additional charges.

I really wanted the 800 members of the congregation as well as the church to actively partner with my restaurant for future events. After some thought, I proposed that I would stand the additional costs associated with the upgrades if the church agreed to give me its business at my listed cost per person for the next two years. Also, I would like for the church to distribute a pamphlet of the goods and services I offered to the business owners in their congregation. They could decide for themselves—after attending the outdoor dinner—if the quality of goods and services fit their standards.

He agreed to the terms, we put them on paper and started to prepare for the event.

He stuck to his word and we did get extra business from the church members. It took me at least a year to recover the difference in the money between the original and the adjusted contract. However, I made a full profit on jobs I got from the business owners in the church. My restaurant picked up a lot more business and I even got business from other churches after my friend the business manager gave them referrals. I made a good move when I did not simply demand that he stick to the original contract. Everybody was happy.

Joyful Noise

This movie might as well be called white noise—especially since I nearly slept through it.

If you like stereotypes, tropes, slapping kids in the face, and mostly-boring music, you will LOVE Joyful Noise! I read that it was a fantastic “feel good” movie, which I am a sucker for (I saw Remember the Titans at the theater twice), so I decided to check it out.

It was neither fantastic nor did it make me feel good. In fact, I found myself fast-forwarding through every song save one, which is pretty bad; I never do that unless I’ve seen a movie all the way through and want to skip to something!

While there were a couple of redeeming qualities in the movie—such as the inclusion of a child with Asperger’s—much of it was boring and stereotypical. Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah both got on my nerves so bad—but it wasn’t their fault; it was their characters’ faults. I’ve loved both of these awesome women in other roles and was disappointed with the people they played this time around.

Want to feel good? Skip this movie and go for Remember the Titans, You’ve Got Mail, Penelope…or any other favorite “feel good” movie you’ve got on your list. Oddly enough, Cher’s film Mermaids also tops mine…

How much is too much?

A devotee's faith

How much is too much? At what point does faith and belief tip over into blind fanaticism? This question has occupied much of my time and mental energy since a trip I made to Denver a while back. I was in Denver on business and my flight requirements dictated that I stay over the weekend to get a lower rate.

I had contacted a friend and his wife who were old friends and neighbors before they moved to Denver. They invited me to stay with them over the weekend. I looked forward to the visit and when the 5:00 p.m. whistle blew on Friday, I made a beeline to their home. This was my first visit since they had moved to Denver. When the voice from the GPS had me pull into their driveway, I was taken aback by the scene in front of me. I sat in the car for a moment taking in the condition of the house and property where they lived.

Back in Albuquerque, they had lived in a nice home that was well-kept and the lawn and grounds around it was tended to regularly enough to be a credit to the attractiveness of the neighborhood. The house in front of me was very small, the siding was cracked in places it obviously needed a new roof. As I walked up the broken and cracked sidewalk, I took note of the warped and unpainted boards of the front porch.

I knocked on the door which was almost immediately opened and I greeted my friends with handshakes and hugs. After a minute, as I was shown to the bedroom where I stashed my bags, I was again surprised to see the old, wobbly furniture, worn rugs and walls in need of paint. More disturbing however, was the general cleanliness, or lack of it. The place wasn’t a disaster, it was simply nowhere near the care they gave their home in Albuquerque.

As the evening and the next several days unfolded, I learned that my friend was doing well in his job—for which he transferred to Denver. His wife had taken a job, which I thought was good on the surface of things. I couldn’t help but notice that the food available in the house was the least expensive available there wasn’t much of it.

Finally, the answer came out late in the day on Saturday. I had been listening since I arrived to a religious reference in almost every comment either of them uttered. The references were benign enough, but there were just so many of them, my “what’s wrong with this picture” radar was pinging off the scale.

Saturday afternoon, after burgers on the grill, the couple sat together and told me they had been converted shortly after their move to Denver. Searching for a church home, they visited one referred by a co-worker. After attending several weeks in a row, they began dedicating more time and money to the church. They have belonged to the church for the last six months or so and this turned out to be the very why the wife found a job. They simply couldn’t support the needs of the church on his salary alone. Her entire weekly check and a big portion of his were devoted to the church and its outreach programs, which explained their living conditions.

I attended services on Sunday—not realizing it was a daylong affair and I saw what I regarded as a brainwashed, somewhat manic congregation hard at work on any number of good causes.

I firmly believe that my friends—in the not too distant future—will have exhausted their funds and will need the same assistance that they are now spending their money to dole out. After all, they have pulled their investments and have proudly sponsored several activities at the church.

I have been dispirited since returning home and worried about what’s going on in Denver with my friends. Certainly, if a person is going to contribute money over the long term, they have to maintain enough resources to live on—in order to generate more money to contribute.

 

King of the Church

From riches to rags

I was nine years old in 1952. Our Baptist Church was only a couple of blocks from our house—not that child safety was a concern in 1952—and I frequently walked back and forth. Nine-year-olds sometimes, perhaps more often than not, say the wrong thing at the wrong time to the wrong people.

At nine years old, I said the wrong thing. I remember exactly what happened. It was Wednesday evening and in addition to the bi-weekly service, our church was having a banquet to celebrate the recent spike in attendance by people who had joined our church family. Part of the banquet consisted of an election to choose a king and queen for the Sunday school classes of each age group. For whatever reason, I was elected king—which is where all the trouble began.

The women’s group who had organized the banquet and other events were making a big deal over me and the girl chosen as queen. We were asked if we would be in church on Sunday to stand before the congregation and say a few words welcoming the new members.

Of course, my “queen” answered in the affirmative. When their attention shifted to me, I made a terrible, although innocent, mistake.

I told the ladies that I didn’t believe my parents would let me be the center of attention of the whole congregation because I didn’t have any good clothes to wear.

Man! I got home and explained about my being chosen as king; so far, so good. However, I then motored on and told my parents about the request to stand before the congregation and my response that I couldn’t because I didn’t have any good clothes.

My mom and dad were struck speechless, but only for a moment; then they went ballistic. While it was true, my folks were proud and simply could not abide the charity—which was coming, sure as hell—from the women of the church.

After they recovered their wits, they had a quick conference and mom took off walking to the church. I found out years later that she had caught the pastor while he was still at the church and assured him we did not need charity. The pastor understood perfectly and promised to have a word with the well-intentioned women of the church.

I did attend church on Sunday and welcomed our new members, while decked out in my new shirt and pants. As I said, it was years later before I found out exactly what happened and how I had almost put my folks in an embarrassing situation.

Saved

Feel the call to testify

In 1958, while growing up in Dallas at the age of 15, I felt the “call” while attending services at our Baptist Church one Wednesday evening. As I have written before, I couldn’t help myself, didn’t even think about it, just rose up from the pew and joined several others heading down the aisle toward the preacher’s pulpit to get baptized and saved. Overcome with emotion at a young age, right?Well, regardless of what precipitated it, I somehow interested my cousin in my newly fueled faith. He and I began attending a Primitive Baptist Church.

We joined a congregation of approximately 100 people who believed in strict adherence to the teaching of the bible; no leeway. Sundays mornings, Wednesday and Friday nights were all spent at the Church. In my previous blog, I mentioned the shame with which people, some very young, stood up—feeling the same need I did when I walked toward the preacher’s pulpit—and “testified” about sinful behavior in their life or that of their parent’s, relatives or friends.

Some astonishing statements were made during testifying. The congregation prayed aloud for guidance for the person testifying while they hung their head in shame, often in tears. My cousin and I attended for most of a year before our interest was captivated by something new. Looking back on it, I have to say that the type of religion practiced by the congregation worked for them. The person testifying appreciated the positive support of the congregates, felt better getting the burden off their chests and enjoyed some emotional relief.

Whether we call it karma or positive interaction with the universe, no matter how much we scoff at religion, we all have a prayer on our lips when bad things suddenly confront us.

 

We're all the same

There is no difference between races

I am certainly no scholar nor am I a believer that God created man in his image infused him with innate goodness and morality. I do believe that man is unique—at least at this infinitesimal blink of the eye in time—in that he is more suited for survival than many of the species who otherwise would either eat him, cause him to die from disease or multiply quickly enough to crowd him out of the evolutionary chain.

Again, the length of time man has inhabited the planet is less than the blink of an eye in the scheme of things. Who knows how many other species have risen to the top of the food chain only to run their course and disappear into oblivion. I do read a great deal—admittedly, mostly fiction—and in my ignorance I become upset when I come across three major subjects that represent a towering conceit on the part of mankind.

War

Every species of life on earth—plant or animal—is engaged in constant, unrelenting and deadly no-holds-barred warfare. Some species, such as ants, form vast armies, engage in pitched battles using tactical maneuvers and give absolutely no quarter as they slaughter each other. The same is true as weeds encroach on grassy areas and kill them out by sucking the nutrients and moisture from the soil before claiming the battleground and flourishing. The examples are too numerous to list.

People Displacement

Caucasians are constantly depicted as evil because they fought, killed and forced the Native Americans off the land who occupied it at the time. Big news flash; the afore-mentioned “peaceful, innocent” Native Americans fought, killed and forced the previous people who were there before them from the same land. Once again, this is a process repeated in every phase in nature as each species attempts to realize its driving, evolutionary objective to survive and evolve.

Slavery

By now the reader may have tumbled to the fact that all people employ the same basic tactics to survive. Slavery is no exception. Every race of humans on earth has taken slaves as part of its survival process. Black tribes in Africa always have and still do take slaves from other tribes. Native Americans indulged in the same practice at every opportunity, even raiding other villages for the express purpose of gathering slaves. Asians, Caucasians and every other race participated in slavery and many still do.

I mentioned conceit earlier. Man believes he is divine and the inheritor of the planet. True, we may last for a long time before we kill ourselves or succumb to a miniscule virus that obliterates the whole race. But, do not despair, other creatures will emerge from the carnage and while they will be totally unimaginable, it won’t matter, because our species will have been long lost in the winds of time.

 

Religious Values Our Best Hope

Will Religion Save America?

I was raised a Baptist during my youth—1943 through 1961—in Texas. Everyone I knew was Catholic, Methodist or like myself, Baptist. I’m sure there were many other major religions represented among my friends as well as those who belonged to churches that were offshoots of more established ones. Even though I no longer practice organized religion, I strongly believe I am a recipient of many of it teachings.

Religion, in addition to a great deal of mythology and conflicting messages, has as its primary message a recipe for a happy and successful life: hard work, self-sufficiency, charity as well as hope and a lasting faith that all will be well in the future. It also holds as a principal tenet that we are not alone; there is something out there that cares and will help us when we help ourselves.

As I said, I don’t practice religion and lean heavily toward the scientific explanation of the universe, at least as far as that explanation goes.

I’ve read where organized religion and belief in God is slowly disappearing from our society as well as the rest of the world. My concern is that the values taught by religion are also disappearing.

During hard times, and life has been brutal up for the human race until this immediate point in history, hard work, self-sufficiency, faith and the other values surface on their own as a matter of necessity. Those who don’t practice them have generally died out. Right now, the poorest among us in America are living like princes compared to those who came before us.

People aren’t being forced to practice strong values and as a result, many people not only want everything for free with no work involved, they adamantly believe they should have it based on the work of others.

As far as the progress of the human race is concerned, this isn’t good.

It for sure isn’t sustainable!

 

Angel in the night

Kiss of comfort

I had the first health issue with my heart many years ago, when I was hospitalized for almost a week. During this time, I went through several “events” with my heart. Of course, I was very scared and at night, after family and friends had gone, I lay awake worrying and wondering what would happen next.In a clear and straightforward manner, I would like to present the following account of a life-changing event that occurred while I was in the hospital.

I was lying in my hospital bed on my first night in the hospital, unable to sleep. I rang for the night shift nurse and asked for a sleeping pill. The male nurse was very attentive and left to check my chart to verify I was allowed to have it and then to get the pill.

As I lay there waiting and worrying, I must have dozed off. When I woke up I saw the sleeping pill and a glass of water on my tray table. As I was reaching for the pill I saw someone sitting in the chair behind the tray table. The person was in shadow and I couldn’t tell who it was. Before I could speak, the person stood up and moved to the side of my bed.

I distinctly remember that the person was a woman was about 30 years old. She had short blond hair, was average looking but had on an old-fashioned nurse’s cap. She wore a white uniform dress (I have been in lots of hospitals in lots of cities in the last 17 years and have not once seen a white nurse’s outfit like that one except on television). She wore a name tag identifying her as “Sandy.”

Not a word was spoken as I looked up at her and she looked down at me. She then did the most incredible yet human thing. She leaned down and kissed me on my forehead, smiled, turned and left. I lay there only a moment before going to sleep—soundly and unworried—for the rest of the night.

The next morning I looked out my door, directly across from to the nurse’s station and looked at the nurse’s overnight schedule; Sandy was not listed. I asked everyone I saw that morning and of course no one knew of Sandy. I stopped thinking about it as the day became occupied with my treatment.

Since then, especially when I have heart issues, I think of Sandy. I do not attempt to figure out what happened that night or who it may have been who comforted me. In fact, this is the first time I have shared the happening with anyone.

Sandy was an angel; I accepted that fact at the time without even thinking about it and I still know it to be true today.

 

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